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Executive Summary


Environmental Justice and the
Survival of a People: Uranium
Mining and the Oglala Lakota People
respectfully submitted by Owe Aku (Bring Back the Way),
PO Box 535, Manderson, SD 57756,

Ms. Catarina de Albuquerque was appointed as Independent Expert in September 2008, and began her
work on the mandate in November of that year. Her report is due by the end of 2011.

Her tasks, as related to the work of Owe Aku on preventing water contamination from uranium mining,

I. Developing a dialogue with Governments, the relevant UN bodies, the private sector, local
authorities, national human rights institutions, civil society organizations and academic institutions, to
identify, promote and exchange views on best practices related to access to safe drinking water and
sanitation, and, in that regard, to prepare a compendium of best practices.

In pursuance of that dialogue, Owe Aku would bring to the attention of the Independent Expert some of
the following activities that relate to her report:

• Collective action to challenge Cameco, Inc. in its 2007 proposed expansion of the North Trend
ISL Uranium Mine to be located north of Crawford, Nebraska (USA) originally came from
community awareness and education among the public as well as environmental groups,
government entities, Lakota civic and cultural NGOs, families, Tiospaye, Treaty Council, and in
the homes of relatives and friends, through conferences, presentations, gatherings and KILI
Radio (the radio station of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation).

• In January 2008, oral arguments developed by three petitioners and their team of lawyers
were held in front of a three judge panel at Chadron, Nebraska. The panel ruled in the
petitioners’ favor and admitted three petitioners (Owe Aku, Western Nebraska Resource
Council, and Debra White Plume) with standing to continue in the case against Cameco’s
North Trend Expansion application. Four contentions were admitted for the hearing process1.
This was the first time in 17 years that an individual or organization had even attempted to file
objections to a uranium operations’ application for In Situ Leach (“ISL”) mining in the United

• In response to Cameco filing its intent to renew its existing license for the Crow Butte
operations ISL mine in early 2008, 13 individuals and groups filed petitions with the NRC to
seek standing to challenge the application of Cameco. A total of 23 Contentions were
submitted to intervene in the license renewal of Crow Butte Operations and oral arguments on
the contentions raised by the petitioners were held on September 30, 2008 and October 1,

• On November 21, 2008, the ALB Judges admitted nine of the 23 contentions including:
✴ failure to disclose non-radiological impacts,
✴ failure to consult regarding cultural resources,
✴ failure to disclose impact on surface waters, including The White River,

1 See List of Contentions at the end of this document.

Owe Aku (Bring Back the Way) Executive Summary of Crying Earth Rise Up page 1
✴ failure to disclose fractures and faults connecting the mined aquifer and drinking
✴ failure to disclose that wastes are released on-site,
✴ failure to include recent research,
✴ failure to account for the value of non-degraded wetlands, and
✴ failure to disclose foreign ownership.

II. The mandate of the Independent Expert includes advancing the work of the United Nations by
undertaking a study, in cooperation with and reflecting the views of Governments and relevant UN
bodies, and in further cooperation with the private sector, local authorities, national human rights
institutions, civil society organizations and academic institutions, on the further clarification of the
content of human rights obligations, including nondiscrimination obligations, in relation to access to safe
drinking water and sanitation.

Owe Aku, representing the traditional government of the Lakota Nation (Lakota Oyate) under
Resolution Number 012811A of the Black Hills Sioux Nation Treaty Council, effective January 28,
2011 2, in cooperation with the Independent Expert would respectfully submit the following views:

• The Arikaree Aquifer, which lies directly under the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, is the source of
drinking water for many families. Under the 1851 and 1868 Ft. Laramie treaties, it is the
responsibility of the Black Hills Sioux Nation Treaty Council to actively protect and preserve Treaty
Territory and the integrity of our relationship to these territories. This includes the health of the
tribal membership and all living natural creation, including the source of drinking water. We stand
opposed to the ISL/R (In Situ Leach and Recovery) Mining of Uranium as it poses significant
environmental and health risks and involves injecting substances into the aquifer as part of the
extraction process.

• Indigenous peoples have communicated to international forums like the United Nations that there
can be no separation between human rights and what others refer to as conservation, sustainable
development and ecological preservation. Joining with Indigenous peoples, there now exists an
expanding network of organizations, grassroots movements and even nations who are confronting
the "developed" world's assault on water and water resources. In recognition of this struggle, the
UN declared the decade 2005-2015 to be an "International Decade for Action–Water for Life." In
this same time period, clean water and sanitation were recognized as human rights by the United
Nations General Assembly on July 28, 2010.3

• Environmental justice includes:

✴ issues of exploitation, ecological damage, restoration of natural resources, and
compensation for victims of exposures,
✴ protection and healing of biological diversity that sustains us and allows us to practice
our culture, language, and spirituality,
✴ protection of all areas that are sacred and that are culturally and historically significant
to our peoples, and
✴ economic development and social justice in building (and re-building) restorative
communities with safe and sustainable jobs and livelihoods.

2A copy of the Resolution is available from the Black Hills Sioux Nation Treaty Council. Please contact if a copy is required.
3 U.N. General Assembly, 64th General Assembly Plenary, 108th Meeting. General Assembly adopts resolution
recognizing access to clean water, sanitation as human right. New York. 28 July 2010. Available at: http://

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• Long-term exposure to radionuclides and uranium in drinking water may cause cancer and toxic
effects on the kidneys. In 2008 and 2009, water samples were taken from 10 homes on the Pine
Ridge in various communities. In 6 out of the 10 homes tested, the results showed Maximum
Contaminant Levels (“MCLs”) for gross alpha emitters (radionuclides) that exceeded legal limits.
When drinking water test results reveal contaminants higher than the MCL, that drinking water is
considered by the United States Environmental Protection Agency to be unfit for human
consumption. A recent arsenic report from the United States, Department of the Interior, Indian
Health Service states that there are more than 120 wells on Pine Ridge with MCLs of Arsenic
higher than that allowed by law.

• In 2009, Debra White Plume filed a petition against Powertech’s operations which includes drilling
in the Dewey-Burdock uranium mine permit areas 4 (with additional plans to begin uranium
extraction in 2011 and to operate for 15 years). Using the following as claims and evidence,
Debra White Plume’s petition alleged that:
✴ the sacredness of water and of the He Sapa (Black Hills) as the Heart Of Everything
That Is,
✴ the system of the He Sapa as an entire connected ecological system,
✴ the cultural and historical aspect of the He Sapa as an intact cultural resources
✴ failure to consult tribal experts, and
✴ International and domestic treaty law under the Ft. Laramie Treaties of 1851 and 1868
which recognize Lakota sovereignty over this territory and its resources.

• Powertech, Inc. submitted their Underground Injection Control permit application to the EPA in
March of 2009, to seek aquifer exemption in the mine permit area and undertake an injection-well
recovery system. This exemption is necessary for Powertech to do ISL mining and to utilize deep
disposal wells to permanently store waste water underground.

III. The human right to sanitation and water contains normative criteria including availability, quality,
safety, acceptability, accessibility and affordability. The cross-cutting criteria relate to non-discrimination,
participation, accountability, impact and sustainability. All are based on human rights principles and
considerations including those set forth in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigneous Peoples.

The normative content has been highly ignored with respect to mining operations in the traditional
territory of the Lakota nation.

• The global giant Cameco, Inc. is either mining or exploring in nine countries with 66 active mining
projects. It holds 5.9 million hectacres (1 hectacre = 2.471 acres) of land in Canada, Australia,
USA, Mongolia, and Africa. Cameco is the world’s largest uranium producer and controls the
world’s largest uranium deposits. This is the reasoning behind the recommendation set forth
below for a global conference on Indigenous territory.

• Cameco, Inc. has license renewals pending before the United States to mine uranium at Crow
Butte Operations near Crawford, Nebraska and has proposed expansion of the North Trend
uranium mine in a nearby area, all on Lakota territory.

• Cameco has dumped 270 million gallons of waste water underground since 1996 (Mechanical
Integrity Testing report by Cameco of Feb 23, 2006). All of this underground waste water was
dumped on Lakota territory.

4“Dewey Burdock is a new ISR uranium district and has all the earmarks of becoming a new large production
center around which many other uranium deposits will be developed.” Dewey Burdock is “18,000 acres in South
Dakota on the southwest flank of the Black Hills uplift.” See
DeweyBurdock.asp (February 20, 2011).

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• Between March 21,1998 and June 19, 2008, there were at least 34 license violations, spills and
leaks at the Cameco’s Crow Butte Operations ISL uranium mine at Crawford, Nebraska. The
state of Nebraska recently fined Cameco $100,000 for license violations at the Crow Butte
Operations ISL uranium mine.

• State regulators in Wyoming fined Cameco, Inc. $1.4 million for license violations at the Smith and
Highland ISL uranium mines in Wyoming.

• Puncture of the aquifers during the process of in situ leach mining of uranium presents the
potential for leaks of uranium-bearing water to escape and enter clean groundwater. Leaks of the
pipes used in ISL mining will also release contaminants such as arsenic and radioactive
contaminants such as Radium 226 & 228 and Thorium 230 into groundwater.

• Waste disposal at ISL uranium mines includes underground injection into a deep disposal well,
storage in an evaporation pond, and land application after treatment. Contamination is

• The world’s largest aquifer, the High Plains Aquifer, is estimated to be more than two million years
old and to hold about 650 trillion gallons of water. It underlies eight states, stretching 800 miles
from South Dakota to Texas. It is threatened by contamination and depletion. Canadian-owned
Cameco uses 4.7 billion gallons per year from groundwater that is now depleting at 160% of its
recharge rate.

• Powertech, Inc. has proposed new uranium mines near Edgemont, South Dakota. This is on
Lakota territory.

• In the 1980s, the United States government identified that the drinking water on the Oglala Lakota
Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is unfit for human consumption.

IV. Making recommendations that could help the realization of the Millenium Develoopment Goals,
in particular Goal 7 (ensuring environmental sustainability).

The Lakota nation respectfully suggests to the Independent expert that the following be included the
recommendations to the Human Rights Council:

• In conjunction with the mandate of the Independent Expert, Undertake “country missions with the
aim of examining the situation of water and sanitation at the national level…” This should include
not just the territories of member nations but also Indigenous nations and communities, including
the Lakota nation.

• On the territory of the Lakota Nation, egregious violations to the mandate of the Independent
Expert, the contents of the General Assembly’s 2010 resolution on the human right to water and
sanitation, and objectives set forth under the Millennium Development Goals are constantly and
repeatedly violated. These violations are detailed and in the attached submittal entitled Crying
Earth Rise Up - Environmental Justice & the Survival of a People: Uranium Mining & the Oglala
Lakota People.

• In consultation with Owe Aku, identified by the Lakota Nation as representative on the issues of
water and sanitation, identify good practices and recommendations to all domestic Governments
and their agencies on steps to improve access and ensure protection of human rights associated
with water and sanitation. The consultation with Owe Aku should occur under the standards of
the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and with respect to the principle of free, prior
and informed consent.

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• The Independent Expert is asked to recommend that all studies, reports and investigations
initiated by all relevant United Nations agencies, including the UNEP and WHO, include the
participation of Lakota experts as identified by the Lakota people. These experts should be
invited to participate with the intention of putting forth relevant action items to reverse and repair
the violations and threats set forth in Crying Earth Rise Up - Environmental Justice & the Survival
of a People: Uranium Mining & the Oglala Lakota People.

• The Independent Expert is further requested to recommend that the Human Rights Council
acknowledge that the right to clean, safe water is not simply a “human right,” but there exists a
sacred obligation to protect the water and all natural resources under the laws and responsibilities
of most Indigenous cultures, and certainly that of the Lakota Nation. This sacred obligation is due
the same protection as any human right. The recommendation set forth by the Special
Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples‘ Permanent Sovereignty Over Natural Resources, along with
numerous other evolving law and standards, clearly states that: “[s]tates must also recognize the
authority of indigenous peoples to manage, conserve, and develop their resources according to
their own institutions and laws.” [Erica A. Irene-Daes, E/CN.4/Sub.2/2004/3013 July 2004,
emphasis added.]

• Because the issue of ISL mining for uranium, in particular, and extractive mining practices, in
general, are critical to meeting Millennium Development Goals with respect to water and
sanitation (now estimated to fail for half a billion people) and since this is also a critical component
of the Independent Expert’s mandate, it is suggested that a high level conference be sponsored
by the appropriate UN bodies and agencies on the territories of an Indigenous nation, co-hosted
by that nation and/or its representatives. Without the direct input of nations and communities of
Indigenous peoples, the Millennium Goals will not be met. We invite the Independent Expert and
the United Nations to draw upon the ancient wisdom and knowledge of Indigenous peoples in
solving this critical challenge to the world.

LIST OF CONTENTIONS as set forth in the Cameco Petition by Petitioner Debra White Plume

Contention A. The Applicant (Cameco) does not accurately describe the environment affected by its
proposed mining operations or the extent of its impact on the environment as a result of its use and
potential contamination of water resources through mixing of contaminated groundwater in the mined
aquifer with water in surrounding aquifers and drainage of contaminated water in the White River

Contention B. The proposed expansion will use and contaminate water resources resulting harm to
public health and safety through mixing of contaminated groundwater in the mined aquifer with water in
surrounding aquifers and drainage of contaminated water in the White River

Contention C: Reasonable consultation with Tribal Leaders regarding the prehistoric Indian camp
located in the area surrounding CBR’s proposed North Trend Expansion Project has not occurred as
required under NEPA and the National Historic Preservation Act.

Contention E: There are two parts to this argument. One is that Crow Butte failed to disclose its foreign
ownership, the other is that the Atomic Energy Act and other laws prohibit the NRC from granting an
ISL uranium mining license to a foreign company.

Respectfully submitted by Owe Aku (Bring Back the Way),

PO Box 535, Manderson, SD 57756,, 605-455-2155

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